Posted in Of Psyche

Of Binge Watching

Homer Simpson: Binge watcher

I didn’t quite know the meaning of binge-watching until I watched ten episodes of House M.D. in one day. It wasn’t the first time I had watched stuff on a screen all day long, or marathoned something. But, 40 minute episodes in ten instalments with food and other breaks throughout the day meant that I had done nothing else, but helped Dr. House solve medical cases. It felt like a new experience, and despite the headache at the end of the day, I had to compel myself to switch off and go to bed before hitting ‘Next’. But, that’s just because House M.D. is a good show, right? Surely a test of how good it is, is me wanting to go through 8 seasons of it as quickly as possible. Now, why should something that feels so good be so bad?

Enter the literal, stark meaning of binge-watching. It is nothing new, but it is one of the foremost pastimes and passions of the 21st century, getting only bigger and better. An interesting study conducted on a group of 18-29 year olds found that binge-watching was related to loneliness and depression. Others, mainly those who create content to binge-watch have related it to reading a novel. Which I find similarly interesting, because there was a time when novel-reading was also a serialized experience, to be relished weekly or monthly. Such serializations are still there, but it is hardly the same as picking up a book, and expecting the whole possible thing in your hand. However, as the astonishing popularity of series in fiction, mainly in trilogies, has also proved , there is a place for both forms of appetites to exist: one, to get it in bits and pieces and the other, to have the whole cake in front of you.

Call it escapism or a “collateral experience” to life and its realities, we’ve always sought stories. We need them. Yes, things are culturally different. You don’t have families fighting over the remote anymore, or sitting together and watching the game with bated breath. They can go about their lives, not missing a moment of the game while they watch it on their phones on a train. Children of the 90s and early 2000s will remember having quotas for TV and playing video games set by their parents (or feeling guilty doing either even if the parents aren’t taking notice) while kids today can multi-task, Whatsapping homework with friends while watching their favourite Youtubers at the same time. Perhaps, the main difference is, the guilty pleasure aspect of it has gone. Completely. I still feel guilty if I have watched too many “What’s in my bag?” videos on Youtube, but it is cultural sacrilege to admit that you don’t participate in something as important as watching Game of Thrones.

It is just the deep irony of the Social Media age: the requisite isolation in our amplified connectedness. Every tweet sent out, every post on a message board is an isolated act, albeit in the pool of a super-conglomeration of like-minded people. You pick the same fights, nod the same emojis in agreement, that you would have, had it been a family or a group of friends discussing the film, TV show or match during or after the airing, or before the next instalment. But, it is not entirely the same. An idea discussed in one my favourite books/films High Fidelity is that of what really matters in a person – is it what they like? Or, what they are like? The thing is, I might talk endlessly about what I like, and you may agree or disagree with it here on WordPress. But, there is a very slim chance of knowing what I am like and what you are like if we cannot hold this discussion in person. And getting to know what a person is like, and letting them know what you are like is an honest, open, vulnerable place to be in. And that, I am afraid, is the only solution to loneliness.

But, that’s a given. We all know that. What we don’t know is why we choose to do things that feed our loneliness. Sure, you’re binge-watching with other people. Sure, you’re talking about it, as well as other real things, at lunch with them. How can it be a bad thing then? People have always discussed what they like, what they choose to spend their time doing. After all, knitting groups still exist on pinterest. People even talk about them as they do them. Television, cinema, even something relatively high-brow as literature bring people together. Like it or not, facebook has made it possible for people in their 70s to get in touch with friends after 40 years, and share their lives through pictures and videos. And Game of Thrones would have been popular even fifty years ago. Surely, the issue is not entirely with the content itself.

It isn’t. It is how we handle it. Not many would like to admit it, but we binge-watch, or binge-eat or binge-anything because we need it to cope with reality. My head has always been full of stories, whether I came up with them or not, mainly because life just looks so much better in the realm of the imagination. Not everything can be classified as a narcotic, after all. Cultures don’t necessarily evolve, they change. Human nature, its wants and needs, stay the same. I could use the time spent on watching Youtube to exercise, catch up with people or write. But, it’s just easier. All bingeing, i.e. addictions, begin that way. The alternative is more difficult, even anxiety-inducing. Loneliness is only symptomatic. It is what we would be doing instead of marathoning Jessica Jones that explains it.

Do you binge-watch? Is it a harmless pastime, or does it affect your life?

Follow me on Twitter @AmritaSarkar6


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

23 thoughts on “Of Binge Watching

  1. I am guilty of binge-watching. I try to justify it….I’ve never had cable and hadn’t watched TV in YEARS before signing up to stream Netflix a few years ago. I feel like I’m catching up on TV.
    It probably is a sign of loneliness, though I had a friend binge Girls with me and my brother and I watched Breaking Bad together in long stretches. But I have occasionally, on a bad day, just let episodes of the Office play while I do things around the house because it’s funny and light and it puts me in a better mood.
    I know it’s probably bad for you, but it’s very satisfying, isn’t it?

    1. Sounds like you are apologising, Sourgirl! This is really normal, if you ask me, and won’t even qualify as a worrying amount of marathoning, and thus, binge-watching. My theory is, it is bad for you if you are missing out on fun, work and taking care of yourself and doing it instead. Which, if I may turn my pseudo-shrink hat on, doesn’t seem to be the case with you. I don’t watch a lot of TV (have NEVER seen Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones). I’ve always watched a lot of films, so I don’t see that as particularly harmful, unless it is mind-numbing trash. My vice is Youtube. I can’t explain to myself why I need to watch people talking about what they had for breakfast.

      If it is good TV (and there is great TV out there), I say keep it up, guilt-free. If it satisfies you, why not?

      1. I’m a generally guilty person. So I’m naturally guilty. I’ve always made the exception for movies, but for some reason, TV is a total guilty pleasure.

        I get a lot of chores done while watching Netflix. So there is an upside! And I have never seen Game of Thrones, either. My backslide into TV watching started with Mad Men. And then Breaking Bad. And Orange is the New Black. Because TV got good again when I wasn’t paying attention!

  2. There have been times when it effected my life negatively. I remember a time when my wife and I looked at each other in bed one night and talked about how we needed to regulate how much binge-watching we do. We got to the point of hardly ever talking to each other. Sure, we hung out a ton, but it was as if neither of us was there – we were each engrossed in whatever show we were watching.

    Now, setting aside a day (like Pizza Day or Boardgame Day) as Binge Day I think is fine.

    Binge-watching is fine – so long as you don’t ALLOW it to become destructive.

    That’s my thought, anyway.

    1. Thank you very much for sharing! And I think setting aside a day is so much better than gorging on the shows as often as possible. It makes you able to appreciate both the show, and the time you spend with each other. Thank you again.

  3. I am guilty of binge watching from time to time. I dont get carried away at all and it doesn’t impact my life in a negative way. However, I think the first experience I had was watching House of Cards on netflix. I think it is fun to be able to watch everything all at once but then again I kind of missed stretching it out over a few months. And as soon as you watch it it seems like you have to wait FOREVER for the next season to come.

    1. Thank you for sharing! And I agree, the wait seems to be longer. However, I think the plus side to watching a show on a weekly basis is that it fits into a regular lifestyle better. Also, I think you remember the episodes better. These are only my guesses though, predominantly based on remembering moments from shows I used to watch ten or fifteen years ago!

  4. Really interesting read. Personally I’m guilty of the same thing, perhaps its because I don’t have the patience to wait for next week’s episode so store them all up for a marathon, or perhaps because my working pattern get’s in the way of watching particular thing’s so I have to wait until I have time off to plough through what I’ve missed.

    Either way I’ll admit to having watched the whole of the Soprano’s in around a week and a half, on more than one occasion :s

    1. It is interesting how the word “guilt” is coming up in the comments, even if there are very understandable justifications to it! If you enjoy watching the show, and it doesn’t interfere with other important things, why feel guilty? Maybe that’s worth exploring, eh? Thank you for sharing!

    1. It has its advantages. You have to wait around a lot less watching the episodes back to back instead of thinking what happens next, which means it actually saves time. Downton is a guilty pleasure of mine too!

      1. Ah, Downton is wonderful! The worst is to get hooked on a show that’s still running, because the week between each episode is deadly! I’ve had a few shows that ended with cliffhangers in May, and then the summer hiatus is HORRIBLE.

      2. Yes, but that is how TV used to work, isn’t it? I remember obsessing over The O.C. as a teenager, watching the repeats as well. I still remember parts of it better than shows I’ve seen in more recent years!

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, Robert has an excellent blog, and is a very generous and thoughtful commenter, which I highly appreciate. I will be sure to drop by your blog! Thanks again!

      1. Thank you so much for that comment, and I regret that somehow I got unsubscribed from your blog and had not seen this and your other excellent recent posts. So I’m very sorry!

      2. Oh, it’s fine! I’ve heard this happen to other people. It has never happened to me. I don’t know how people automatically get ‘unfollowed’. I mostly have technical trouble with the word processor here. But, I guess everybody does!

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